Vampire Hunter D-The Movie: Special Edition (1985)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Piracy Ad, Read Or Die TV Volume 6, Madlax Volume 1
Trailer-Inuyasha Volume 7
|Year Of Production||1985|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (53:42)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.29:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
From the novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi and the artwork of Yoshitaka Amano (familiar, no doubt, to readers of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and fans of Final Fantasy), Vampire Hunter D takes gothic romanticism and transports it to a distant future, adding a dash of sci-fi to boot. In the usual manner of things, humanity manages to all but wipe itself out in the late 21st century, allowing demons, mutants, werewolves, and vampires to rise to power.
By the year 12,090, what's left of the human race labours under a feudal system governed by wealthy vampire aristocrats. While protecting her livestock and produce from monsters and mutants, Doris Lang is attacked by local vampire lord Count Magnus Lee. Having lived for thousands of years, Lee aims to relieve his boredom by marrying a lower class commoner and keeping her as a plaything for a few years. Enter the mysterious vampire hunter, D. D is the result of a union between a vampire and human, and has sworn his life to hunting down and destroying the vampire aristocracy. Carrying his own heavy secrets and accompanied by his living, talking Left Hand (as strange as it sounds, it works), D is the epitome of calm heroism, barely moving a muscle in the film's many bloody encounters. But will D's secrets and special abilities allow him to defeat the evil Count Lee and rescue Doris? Yeah . . . probably . . .
Vampire Hunter D is fairly standard anime and follows all of the genre's conventions (the stoic hero with little to say, the feisty heroine with little to wear, plenty of blood and a dash of nudity), but it uses the rules to produce an enjoyable ride. Of course, it could be argued that this was one of the films that established the genre. What really sets the film apart, though, is its gorgeous gothic art design. This is European romanticism at its best and I'm sure Goethe, Byron and Shelley would be right at home in Kikuchi and Amano's world.
There is much to recommend about Vampire Hunter D and I'll put my hand up and say that I enjoyed it. Even if the genre is a little tired, D still holds his classic status well and deserves some recognition for being part of the initial anime explosion in the West. And besides, D is much cooler and much more interesting than his postmodern, hyperactive counterparts in Blade and Underworld: I'll take old-school vampiric romanticism over the loud, brash trench-coat vampires we get now any day.
Madman have given us a decent video transfer, but it's not perfect by any means. It is presented here at 1.29:1 full frame, close to its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
To my eyes the transfer was just a little soft. There's plenty of low level noise throughout. The film itself is very dark, with a lot of heavy blacks and blues, which are generally very deep and solid (issues with noise aside). The filmmakers deliberately let detail vanish in the dark colours to good effect. D himself is a solid dark shadow, only his face, sword and hands easily distinguished from his black cloak.
Along with the heavy emphasis on black, colours tend to be fairly muted and pale, which of course works to the film's style.
I noticed some pixelization and macro-blocking in the background that wasn't too distracting on my television but very obvious on my Powerbook. Noise reduction has resulted in a moment or two of oddly moving background colour (13:55) and I noticed some Gibb effect in many shots (54:26 for example). Faces are occasionally subject to edge enhancement: at 14:47 Doris's hair has a visible yellow halo. There's a lot of telecine wobble in the Japanese credits. Interlacing is a persistent problem and there's a good smattering of small black and white film artefacts throughout.
Subtitles are in Madman's usual yellow font. They are accurate to the Japanese dialogue but fail to catch the different "flavours" of language in the original. D and the vampires speak in an "aristocratic" style of Japanese that just doesn't come through in the titles at all. The price of translation I guess. At least the subtitle aren't taken from the atrocious English dub.
There are eleven chapters and the layer change is at 53:42, well placed in a scene transition.
Again, a decent transfer but not fantastic. Two audio tracks are included: the default Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 Kbps). I listened to the entire Japanese track and most of the English track (it's so bad, I had to quit).
Dialogue is clear in both tracks. The Japanese sounds much more natural (despite its lower bit rate): the English track sounds poorly recorded, flat and undynamic. The Japanese track does however have an irritating and consistent crackle that is absent from the English. The English dub adds dialogue where there is none in the original and its translation is fairly unimpressive. It appears that the translators felt the need to spell everything out for Western audiences and fill any silences with dialogue. To top it all off, the English voice actors sound about as talentless as you can get. After a while, I just couldn't handle the dub at all - stick with the Japanese track.
The Japanese track is not surround encoded and is very centre focused with some directional effects across the sound stage. The English track is also very front focused, sending ambient noise and music to the rears. The subwoofer rumbles a little during some of the louder scenes.
Music is composed by Tetsuya Komuro and consists entirely of synthesizer with a naturally 1980s feel. Personally I think the music works very well in the film, rarely drawing attention to itself in the way that most 80s synthesizer tracks do. The closing credits song, "Your Song", is terrible though, and totally out of place in terms of style.
|Surround Channel Use|
4x3 menu with audio and subtle animation.
In Japanese and not subtitled. Starts out as a nicely atmospheric trailer but then launches into "Your Song." Shows some of Amano's original artwork.
Just short of 10 min, this featurette repeats the trailer with subtitles before showing the animation staff and voice actors at work. Just about everyone on staff gets a soundbite. It's by no means in depth but a decent, if brief, introduction to what went on behind the scenes.
Brief bio of Amano and a short gallery presentation of his gorgeous Vampire Hunter artwork. D looks notably androgynous compared to the film. A tantalising glimpse that should have been much longer.
Piracy trailer. It's pleasing that Madman don't force this one on us.
Read or Die Volume 6, Madlax, and Inuyasha Vol. 7 with English voiceover.
We appear to have the same transfer as the Region 1 release but miss out on some minor extras. Our featurette and Amano gallery appear on the Region 1, but we miss out on a preview of the Playstation game and trailers for Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Wicked City, Wild Seven, and Petshop of Horrors. We also miss out on a couple of weblinks.
The Region 2 (UK) version also includes, along with Region 1 features, a commentary by Jonathan Clements (I believe he is involved in the upper management of Manga UK).
The Region 2 Japan release has no extras.
Without knowing whether the UK disc's commentary is any good I'd call it all pretty even. If you do go for the Region 2 Japan version, be careful you don't end up with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust which is simply titled Vampire Hunter D in Japan. The 1985 version is Kyuketsuki Hunter D.
|DVD||Sony DVP-S336, using Component output|
|Display||LG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||DB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR|